By Paul Rogers
This is Tomas and his Mother, waiting in one of the ceremony rooms at Islington Town Hall.
There's no Bride in this image. You can't even see the grooms face, and his Mother is out of focus. But I've chosen this image to start off my portfolio because it represents what I do best, and why my wedding photography is different from the hundreds of other photographers out there. This physical touch of reassurance from his Mother as he waits for Evgeniya to arrive for the ceremony says everything about this part of the day that Tomas will want to remember for the rest of his life.
I try to capture those intangible aspects of a wedding day. The little touches, glances and smiles that when you see them years later, set off that feeling again from the day you married your loved one. Sure, I've got reams of photos of a bride having some make-up applied, the couples' first kiss at the altar, the 'confetti run', the first dance and all the other moments you'd expect your wedding photographer to capture. You can see a lot of those over on the blog, and I've included some below too.
This philosophy of documenting a wedding is so strong that I set myself a challenge when putting together a blog post for my end of year highlights. Instead of showing spectacular, well lit and highly stylised portraits of the Bride and Groom (as is the fashion at the moment) I chose images without showing the Bride or Groom at all. Photos that concentrate on the guests, the family members, everything that makes a couple's wedding day unique and special to them. These are the kind of pictures that define a wedding day, that show you their loved ones and what their relationships with them look like.
Turn up the sound and watch this short Photofilm, it uses some of the speeches to add context. I think you'll love it:
It's being able to hand to my clients, photographs of moments like the one above. Moments that would have been lost and forgotten before the first dance had I not seen, and captured them.
Scroll on to see some more beautiful wedding photography, of moments you'll be expecting, and ones that will surprise and delight you. Then consider whether you'd like your wedding album to look like the hundreds of others out there, or if you'd like your children and grandchildren to see you in these kind of images, and ask you to tell them all about your wedding day, just one more time...
It gets the wedding party used to having a photographer around, and more importantly, it provides a start point for the day. I'm a documentary wedding photographer, which means I use my images to convey a story, and that needs a beginning.
As well as looking for beautiful images showing the Bride and Bridesmaids getting ready, this is where I start to look for context within the subject. Whether the Bride is getting ready in her bedroom at the family home where the surroundings will have a story to tell, or in a beautiful hotel room overlooking Parliament for the start of a London wedding. Everything around the bridal party will be part of the story, and I try to include it in the photography.
That's easy if everyone's getting ready at the same venue, but sometimes I'll spend a short amount of time with the groomsmen before travelling on to photograph the Bride's preparations. Other times, when this is logistically impossible, I'll bring a second, equally skilled documentary wedding photographer to capture the groomsmen while I photograph the Bride.
As well as providing another little chapter in the story of the day, I think it's an important inclusion for the Bride in the final set of photographs. I'll have been photographing the Bride and her journey through the day from before the ceremony up until after the first dance. So to have photography from part of the day where she wasn't present is a wonderful surprise in the final gallery.
The reaction of the Father of the Bride or the bridesmaids as they see her in the dress for the first time. Nothing is stage-managed on the day (except the portraits and some group pictures) so these moments are real and genuine.
By the time everyone's leaving for the ceremony, I'm almost invisible. I don't wear all black and hide in the shadows, but the way I act, dress and work means that I blend in, allowing me to capture these kind of pictures.
Whoever you choose to photograph your wedding, they should have a very strong set of images from this part of the day.
The important thing for me here is to capture the atmosphere and anticipation without you or your guests feeling like they're always being photographed. I like to arrive well before the Bride so I can look for unusual angles and views of the ceremony that the Bride and Groom would never see. It's another time when a second photographer will bring another dimension to the coverage. You'll notice that apart form my portraits, nobody in any of these pictures is looking at the camera. That's not because I've asked them not to - I don't give any direction at all - but because of the way I work. I get in close to you and your guests, but I don't intrude. It's a skill that not every photographer has, but it's essential in order to get the kind of pictures you see here for my clients.
The anticipation before seeing his Bride for the first time can make a powerful image, before I capture the Bride's arrival. I'm very respectful of the ceremony itself, and once I've photographed the arrival, will not usually move until any hymns or readings. I definitely won't obstruct the guests view, or use flash or a loud camera with motor-drive. My cameras are nearly silent, and I move very quietly!
I have been banished to the back of church, or worse still, outside, by officious vicars before. They've usually had a bad experience with previous photographers, and may not have worked with a Documentary Photographer before. If possible, I'll try to reassure whoever is taking the ceremony that I won't be a disruptive influence on the proceedings.
There's no need to influence the proceedings. I don't obsess with getting the kind of traditional pictures that were the staple of wedding photographers in the past - the 'First Kiss' or the mock register signing. Love is more than a kiss, it's the little touches and glances between a couple that really tell you what was happening on the day.
But there's always great documentary photographs to be taken as family and friends congratulate the newly-weds. It's the first time that the Bride has been able to greet any of the guests, and there's usually lots of emotion and it's a great time to capture some of the 'characters' present!
Providing everyone involved knows where and when these are to be taken, they shouldn't take more than 15 minutes. The very last thing I want is to have the guests waiting around for hours while the photographer reels through endless group photos. Five or six groups is usually sufficient. If you're planning a winter wedding, be sure your venue has an indoor location suitable for your group photos.
Likewise, I'm just not the kind of photographer who will take the bride and groom off for an hour or two for some portraits at all the landmarks in the vicinity. All of the couples family and friends are at the wedding, they should be with them for as much of the day as possible. To be honest, this is where the great documentary pictures are to be had. And they take time to capture - often I'll watch a scene develop for a couple of minutes before taking any pictures, making sure I have the absolute best moment caught for you. You can't do that while photographing posed group pictures.
As an editorial photographer at the Times newspaper, I spent a lot of time photographing portraits of people. You can see some of those over on my editorial portfolio. So I'm totally at ease when looking for locations and spend only fifteen minutes getting some great portraits. I want the Bride and Groom to get back to their guests as soon as possible - that's where the great moments are happening.
Not the kind of endless detail pictures of mason jars and candles that are so prolific on wedding blogs these days. I do, of course, photograph all the little finishing touches couples have put thought into, surrounding the wedding. But for me, those are props to give the wedding the 'atmosphere' for the really interesting element - the guests having a great time!
Whether it's the uninhibited joy of any children present, or family members who haven't seen each other for decades, these are the kind of pictures that my clients book me for. Capturing moments and emotions that pass in the blink of an eye.
Though I do take a break myself during the meal (nobody wants to be photographed eating!) there's still plenty to photograph. From the meal being served and the Best Man's nerves before the speeches, to the great evening light and garden games. By this point, everyone's relaxed and I'm virtually invisible to the guests. I've not been using flash, or posing 'grip and grin' pictures round each table, so I can roam freely, following the laughter, and capturing guests at their very best.
For the earlier part of the day I work entirely with available light and don't use flash. That's because I need you and your guests to be at ease and you can't do that if a flash goes off every time I take a picture.
Take the picture above, of the guest feeding his son a bottle of milk at the bar. This is a great story-telling image: it's a deserted bar as all the guests are sitting down enjoying their wedding breakfast. It's a tender moment between a Father and his son. It's a relationship that is constantly changing, and to be able to capture a slice of that relationship at this particular point in time is a powerful thing. A flash would have killed the atmosphere, disturbed the baby, and just been intrusive. The fact that it's not perfectly sharp, or that there is some 'noise' because of the extreme low light, is insignificant compared to the moment caught.
It's a compilation of photographs from the last couple of years and I know that any photographer will be able to put together a great set of pictures if they've shot enough weddings. And that's why you should also look at some complete weddings. You can see a selection over on the Featured Weddings Page, or I can send you links to some full sets of images as delivered to my clients.
I also post almost every wedding I shoot on the blog page, so you'll be able to get a feel for how consistent I am in different light and with different venues and couples.
If you're planning your wedding, I'd urge you to get in touch with me as soon as you can - popular dates will book up to two years in advance. But drop me a line to check even if your wedding is in the next few weeks as there's always a chance I'm not already booked.
Thank you for taking the time to look through my portfolio, I hope you enjoyed it. Why not check out some of my Documentary Family Photography.